Connecting Locally is a research project commissioned by NAVCA from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. The report, published in November 2022, gives a detailed overview of local VCSE infrastructure support in England provided by NAVCA members.

The research demonstrates that local infrastructure responds to local needs, delivering a community-led approach to enable meaningful partnership working, collaboration and capacity building. Areas such as health, employment and education are all strengthened when there is a thriving local voluntary and community sector.

Through working with and advocating for communities, and coordinating support, our members are continuing to work with VCSE organisations to support the most deprived and excluded groups.

According to the research, NAVCA members face key challenges as we continue with an uncertain future. Firstly, they are working in an increasingly constrained financial context, which is likely to deteriorate with further cuts to local authority funding. It is often difficult to find funding for the delivery of core VCSE infrastructure support services.

Secondly, it can be difficult to convince others about the value of local VCSE infrastructure organisations, even when quality and impact have been demonstrated effectively.

Read the full report to find out more local VCSE infrastructure support, the challenges faced by NAVCA members, and how our members are working to build sustainability.

Read the full report:

Find out more about the impact and value of local infrastructure, the challenges faced by the NAVCA membership, and how our members are working to build sustainability.

Exploring the research further:

NAVCA Connecting Locally infographic
The local infrastructure network across England

•	187 members of NAVCA
•	cover 80% of local authority areas and 84% of the population 
•	concentrated in the most deprived fifth of local authority areas: covering 91% of the population of these areas
Section – Income and Spending in year to 31 March 2021

•	combined income £173m
•	combined spending £157m
•	NAVCA members by annual income:
o	16% - under £250k
o	59% - £250k-£1M
o	25% - £1M plus
•	Sources of income: [ref Fig.6]
o	35.7% - local government
o	21.3% - NHS /statutory health bodies
o	18.0% - grant making trusts and foundations
o	6.5% - income from buildings/room hire
o	5.8% - central government
o	2.4% - membership fees / charges
•	Type of income: [ref Fig.7]
o	54.2% - grants
o	33.5% - contracts
o	9.2% earned income
o	1.6% – donations and legacies
•	Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Local Infrastructure finances in 2020-21:
o	Income increased by 18% [increase per year 2016-2020 was 4%]
o	Expenditure increased by 11% [increase per year 2016-2020 was 2%]
Section – the local VCSE sector in 2022
•	Local infrastructure organisations:
o	have at least 89,090 local VCSEs organisations as members 
o	regularly work with many more local VCSEs that are not their members
o	predominantly engage with small community-based and grassroots organisations
	67% have an annual turnover of less than £100K
	54% have no paid members of staff
•	Major concerns of local VCSE organisations include:
o	Accessing funding
o	Managing finances
o	Adapting services
o	Managing staff and staff wellbeing
o	Relationships with statutory organisations
o	Recruiting and supporting volunteers
Leadership and Advocacy on behalf of VCSE sector
o	Seat at local strategic tables:
	Integrated health and care arrangements – 89%
	Health and wellbeing board – 71% 
	Local resilience forum – 69%
	Local strategic partnership – 68%
	Community safety partnership – 56% 
o	High participation and influence by VCSE in local strategies [ref Fig.14]
	VCSE / civil society strategy – 78%
	Community strategies – 70% 
	Health and wellbeing strategies – 70% 
	Integrated care strategies – 57%
	Service commissioning frameworks – 33% 
Partnerships and Collaboration
o	Strong / positive relationships between local infrastructure organisations and: 
	Community based groups – 96%
	Other local support organisations – 93%
	Larger service delivery voluntary organisations – 87% 
	Volunteer only groups – 83%
	Groups representing racially minoritised communities – 74% 
	Groups representing disabled people – 69% 
o	Strong / positive relationships between local infrastructure organisations and external stakeholders:
	Local council officers (second tier local authorities) – 91%
	NHS Commissioners and Providers – 86%
	Local grant making trusts and foundations – 84%
	Local council officers (top tier local authorities) – 83%
	Local Councillors (second tier authorities) – 79%
	Local Councillors (top tier authorities) – 57% 
Community Development and Practical Support
	Supported local VCSE sectors to secure £139M
	91% provide one to one practical guidance and support for VCSE organisations
	91% provide training for VCSEs
	98% expect continuing or increasing demand for practical support and guidance from VCSEs
	88% provide some form of support for volunteering:
o	81% give advice or promote good practice in volunteer management
o	70% offer a matching function
o	67% host or run a local volunteer centre
o	58% co-ordinate volunteers
o	33% with employers on employer supported volunteering
	In 12 months to 31 March 2022: 30,000 organisations have used volunteering services, 91% of which are local VCSEs.
Section – The Future 
	Prospects in next 2-3 years:
o	80% think impact and reputation will grow substantially or slightly
o	28% think that income will increase, 28% stay the same, 29% decrease 
	Local infrastructure organisations are looking at different strategies for sustainability. 
o	Build stronger strategic relationships with health authorities 96%
o	Build alliances and collaborations with other VCSE organisations 94%
o	Build stronger strategic relationships with local authorities 92%
o	Demonstrate impact 90%
o	Diversify funding streams 86%
	Support needed in next 2-3 years to:
o	evaluate and demonstrate impact 
o	develop business and funding streams 
o	enhance leadership and strategic thinking

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